COVID-19: Can I still Have a Funeral?
The short answer is yes…and no.
First, what exactly is the coronavirus? For starters, there isn’t just one coronavirus. Covid-19 is a strain within the large coronavirus family. Coronaviruses, which are a virus humans come in contact with every day, can cause anything from the common cold to acute respiratory issues. Covid-19 is a completely new strain of coronavirus. Because humans have no innate immunity that is why the disease is so infectious.
Can I have a funeral if my loved one didn’t die from COVID-19?
Every state has different guidelines that must be followed. Currently, the CDC is recommending gatherings of 10 people or less. You may have a viewing and/or service as long as the number of people doesn’t exceed 10, and you’re following the guidelines of the funeral home, church (if applicable), and cemetery.
But I have more than 10 people that want to attend.
We can get creative. Services can be webcasted. This is something happening more and more frequently, regardless of the recent pandemic. People are more transient these days. It isn’t uncommon for a child, grandchild, or sibling to be in another country during the time of a death, and for the services to be viewed remotely. Your funeral home probably already has webcasting capability and can use so others can “participate.”
Another option is to have a private interment immediately for close, immediate family and have a public memorial service at a later date. This isn’t optimal, but the interment service should provide some measure of comfort until the public service can be held at a later time.
Ask your funeral provider to set up a memorial webpage so friends and family can send messages of condolence and share photos. This is a good way to connect and reconnect with old friends who want to reach out during your time of loss.
What do I do if my loved one dies of COVID-19?
Call the funeral home when the death occurs and they will be able to tell you how to proceed. There are many factors to consider, such as where the death occurs (e.g., hospital, residence, skilled care facility) and what the current state regulations are regarding transfer/removal of someone dying of an infectious disease. Funeral home personnel have been trained on how to properly handle remains infected with Covid-19, and the family members will see more personal protective equipment (if the death occurs in a residence) than normally would be used, but they will be able to respond if your loved one has died from Covid-19.
Can I still have a funeral if my loved ones died of COVID-19?
Yes, within the parameters set forth by the federal government and the state you reside in. It is safe to choose embalming or cremation for a person dying of Covid-19. Covid-19 is a virus that is susceptible to the chemicals used in the embalming process, and the remains can be completely disinfected. Cremation takes place at a high enough temperature that it completely destroys the virus.
A small service, of 10 people or less (or whatever the current policy is), is permitted of someone dying from Covid-19. As stated above, the service could be webcasted, or a public memorial service could take place once restrictions are listed.
As always, remember to:
-wash hands thoroughly and often
-avoid groups of more than 10 people
-stay six feet away from others
-disinfect commonly touched surfaces often (doorknobs, phones, steering wheels, keyboards,….)
-cover coughs with elbows
-seek medical attention if you think you’re ill